Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Steed

Meet Cloe (that's a variant of "Chloe" without the "h").

Except for installing the headset and trimming the steerer tube, I built her myself. Her build philosophy and component selection follow the concept of "light, but reliable." In building her, I avoided the pitfalls of "stupid light" or "show light." I wanted this bike to be light, not in the sense of merely race light, but epic light as well. I.e. the bike must be tough and reliable enough to withstand multi-day, self-supported epics. Disc brakes were eschewed as the mechanical variants remain comparatively too heavy, and hydraulic versions are difficult or impossible to repair in the field.


Application: Cross-country racing and epics.

Configuration: Hardtail.

Frame: Custom 20.5" (52 cm) Merlin XLM Titanium, with strengthened seatstays and dropouts for rear rack capability.

Headset: Chris King Titanium Threadless.
Headbolt upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Steerer Tube Spacers: Carbon Fiber.

Fork: Fox Racing Shock F100 RLC.
Front Brake Bosses upgraded from steel to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Stem: 125mm, negative 5-degree rise, Litespeed Titanium.

Handlebar: Titec 118 Titanium with BERTs.

Bar Ends: IBS Titanium.

Grips: Specialized Body Geometry Performance.

Bar Plugs: Salsa Fire-Plugs.

Seatpost: 27.2mm diameter, 380mm Moots Titanium Layback Seatpost.
Saddle Rail Bolts upgraded from Dacrometto Moots 6AL-4V Titanium.

Seat Tube Clamp: Extralite Ultra Clamp with Custom Titanium Bolt.

Saddle: Sella Italia SLR, with Carbon Fiber shell and Titanium rails.

Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial Ultimate.

Front Brake: Avid Ultimate Single Digit V-Brakes.
Cable and noodle linkage bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Rear Brakes: Avid Ultimate Single Digit V-Brakes.
Cable and noodle linkage bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.
Rear Brake Pivot Mounting Bolts upgraded from stainless steel to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Brake Pads: upgraded to Kool-Stop Thinline.

Rear Brake Booster: Shimano Carbon Fiber Brace.

Brake Housing: Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ Mesh.
Cable Sleeve Tubing upgraded to Teflon™.
Brake Cables upgraded to Teflon-coated.

Shifters: SRAM Rocket Twist Shifters.

Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR 960 top-swing and top-pull.
Band Clamp, Cable Clamp, High Limit, and Low Limit adjustment bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR 952 SGS.
Mounting Bolt, Cable Clamp, Jockey Pulleys, B-tension, High LImit, and Low Limit adjustment bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Avid Rollamajig Shift Enhancer.

Derailleur Housing: Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ Mesh.
Cable Sleeve Tubing upgraded to Teflon™.
Derailleurs Cables upgraded to Teflon-coated.

Cranks: 175mm, 44/32/22 Race Face Deus.
Inner Chain Ring bolts upgraded to Action Tec 6AL-4V Titanium.

Bottom Bracket: Race Face X-Type. Bearings upgraded to Enduro bearings after 562 miles.

Pedals: Crank Brothers 4Ti Eggbeater Titanium.
Stock plastic cleat shims upgraded to CNC-cut stainless steel.

Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M960 11-34 Titanium.

Chain: Shimano CN-7701 Durace / XTR.

Chainstay Protector: Lizard Skins Jumbo.

Tires: Specialized Roll-X Pro D2.

Front Wheel: Sun Ringlé R.P.M. Lite 0 degree rim, 14/15 gauge double-butted DT spokes (24), alloy nipples, Sun of Bubba hub. Radial laced.

Rear wheel: Sun Ringlé R.P.M. Lite 0 degree rim, 14/15 gauge double-butted DT spokes (28), alloy nipples, 439 Bubba Lite hub. 2-cross laced.

Veloplugs used instead of rim strips.

Quick Releases:
Front: Salsa Flip-Offs Cromoly.
Rear: Salsa Flip-Offs Titanium.

Tire Tubes:
Summer: Specialized AirLock self-sealing tubes.
Fall, winter & spring: Forte MTB LunarLight PV ultra-light tubes.

King 3AL-2.5V Titanium Bottle Cages (2).
Bottle Cage bolts upgraded from aluminum to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Total Weight:
Summer configuration: 23.45 lbs (10.66 kg)
Fall, winter & spring: 22.66 lbs (10.30 kg)

Maximum Payload (rider + water bottles + Camelbak): 180 lbs (81 kg).

Total Value: US$7177.77 (S$11,292.07)


Possible Future Upgrade

Extralite's UltraTerra Ti Titanium wheelset will reduce total--and rotating--weight by 1.12 lbs (0.51 kg).



Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ braided brake and derailleur cable housing.

This Litespeed Titanium handlebar was originally spec'd, but, at 23.5 inches, it was too wide for my narrow shoulders. I went with the narrower 22-inch Titec 118 Titanium handlebar instead. This brand new handlebar can be yours for US$120. Msg me. As this is no longer in production, I'm keeping it for future build projects.

Cockpit with Titec 118 Titanium handlebar.

The extreme wall thinness of the Titec 118 Titanium handlebar near the ends necessitates additional structural support if bar ends are used. These Bar End Reinforcement Things (BERTs) slip into the ends of the handlebar, where bar ends clamp on.

Chris King Titanium Threadless Headset.

Stock cable sleeve tubing upgraded to Teflon™.

Front view.

2007 Fox Racing Shox F100 RLC Fork.

Race Face Deus XC crankset and Crank Brothers 4Ti pedals.

I originally bought the Crank Brothers 3Ti Titanium pedals (186 grams / pair) for Cloe but later decided to upgrade to the 4Ti, which are lighter by 19 grams. Both are stunningly presented in an extruded aluminum case. First US$250 takes these. SOLD.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 4Ti Titanium pedal with premium cleat.

Comparison of CNC-cut steel cleat shim upgrade (left, silver) with OEM Crank Brothers' plastic shims (right, black).

Cleat and upgraded shim installed on Shimano M-225 shoe.

Close up. The shim protects the carbon fiber body of the shoe (hopefully).

Rear derailleur and Avid Rollamajig.

Titanium hardware on derailleur.

Front derailleur.

Titanium hardware on derailleur.

Salsa Titanium rear Quick Release and Shimano XTR Titanium cassette.

Extralite Ultra Clamp with custom Titanium bolt. It only weighs 11 grams with the bolt!

Avid Single Digit Ultimate V-brakes with Shimano Carbon Fiber Brake Booster and Titanium Pivot bolts.

Front and rear Avid OEM V-brake pads upgraded to Kool-Stop All Weather pads.

King Cage Titanium water bottle cages (28 grams each).

Comparison of Sella Italia Flite Titanium (210 grams) on Ivy (left) with Sella Italia SLR Titanium (135 grams) on Cloe (right).

Ivy - 18 inches (46 cm).

Cloe - 20.5 inches (52 cm).

Crank Brothers Eggbeater SL (266 grams / pair) US$120 on Ivy. [Blue spring]
Crank Brothers Eggbeater 4Ti (167 grams / pair) US$425 on Cloe. [Gold spring]

Cloe & Ivy.


Front view.

Rear view.

Comparison of 2007 Fox Racing Shox F100 RLC with 1996 Rock Shox Judy FSX. The difference in the width of the stanchions is appreciable.


spec78 said...

Kevlar™ braided brake hose ??!!!
kinda overkill.
shldn't ya be splurging on brake discs instead ?

crufty said...

Cycling porn at its finest. The welding on the joints is just incredible. Good shit.

It's always a good idea to list component costs so you have a frame of refererence when parts need to be replaced and you just can't find the damn receipt. It's not as if the author is presenting it as the "most expensive MTB in the world".

-ben said...

Hi guys (and gals),

Thanks for the comments :-)


I did extensive research into disc brakes for my build. The Formula Oro Puro is the nicest (and lightest) of the lot. A complete assembly (minus the disc-specific hub) is 372 grams, including caliper, 160mm rotor, brake hose, front brake lever.

However, like other hydraulic disc brakes, once you spring a leak or get air in the system, it is almost impossible to rectify on the trail. Also, the Formula Oro Puro has a design flaw, the air bleed valve is located on the inside of the clamp. This means that you eventually will have DOT 3 fluid seeping out on your handlebars and ruining your grips and anything that's painted. In addition, as practically all bicycle hydraulic disc brakes have their reservoirs and bleed valves located at the lever, hydraulic disc brake manufacturers recommend against storing the bike upside down as it introduces air bubbles in the system. Fox Racing Shox, however, advises that you store your bike upside down so as to keep the fork stanchion seals lubricated. Fun, eh?

With regard to mechanical disc brakes, only the Avid BB7 is reliable, but it is very heavy (over 500 grams per wheel, not counting the heavier disc-specific hubs).

In comparison, my Avid Ultimate front brake (lever and brake set) comes up to 248 grams and I can use radial spoke lacing, something which is prohibited for disc brake wheels.

The Kevlar™ braided housings were not that expensive. They cost less than the Shimano XTR housings and are lighter.


It's always a good idea to list component costs so you have a frame of refererence when parts need to be replaced and you just can't find the damn receipt.

Yes, when I was looking to replace my rear cassette on my 1996 Specialized Stumpjumper, I can't even begin to tell you how frustrating it was to find out how much I paid for that cassette so that I can do a price/performance analysis vis-a-vis current prices and models. I.e. LX, XT, or XTR? Receipt? Sure, I keep every receipt, right down to the 1st cappuccino I had when I first landed at San Francisco Airport 10 years ago. I have 5 boxes of nothing but receipts in Public Storage. Who wants to search for that receipt for me? I will pay ten dollahs! *grin* If I put it online, years from now, all I need to do is to use Google's embedded search engine.

Heh! Bike porn. I guess I shouldn't mention the early Beryllium frames. They were super light and super strong, but the bare metal is very toxic. If the paint is scratched away and skin comes into contact with it, severe dermatitis and lung damage can result. I can see it now: every time one crashes, the HazMat team must be called in. :-D Oh, that and a frame costs US$25,000. :-)

Me? I will settle for a custom road bike frame made from Titanium 6AL-4V that has been lovingly formed and massaged between the thighs of young, nubile lolitas.

Auditions for aspiring lolitas now open. Must possess metalworking skills. Contact the author for further details.

spec78 said...

Ha ! A weight weenie . I shld've known.
B..But light weight shld not be 1st priority on MTB.
on tight and narrow singletrack, the extra braking pwr comes in handy and far outweighs its disadvantages.

U'll be able to brake much later into corners. Also, u'll avoid overbraking as it is easier to modulate and control braking of disc brakes.

Besides, u ve sucha big frame (refering to ur body :P ), the extra weight will lower the center of gravity !

-ben said...


Yep, a weight weenie here, but a realistic one :-) Reliability or longevity should not be sacrificed to save weight.

Totally great points about disc brakes. However, I enjoy climbing a lot more than descending.

The concept of extra weight helping in descents is only true if the course is a straight line. Once you have to deal with changes in direction, every bit of extra weight works against you in the form of inertia. This is why a lightweight Mazda RX-7, Miata or Lotus Elise will have an easier time going down a mountain road than, say, a Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, BMW 5 series.

Hydraulic disc brakes are very difficult or impossible to repair in the field. Having a leak or air in the brake system on a solo epic will really suck.